Pig confinement: something resembling a torture chamber. In the push for squeezing more pigs into less space, they are kept in unbearably tiny stalls too small for them to turn around in. Many people think of Charlotte’s Web and Babe when they imagine how pigs are raised for meat. Unfortunately, these fantasy tales do not depict reality. Almost all of the 100 million pigs killed for food in the United States every year endure horrific conditions in controlled animal feeding operations (CAFOs), the meat industry’s euphemism for factory farms. Smarter than dogs, these social, sensitive animals spend their lives on bare concrete in overcrowded, dank and filthy warehouses, often seeing direct sunlight for the first time as they are crammed onto a truck bound for the slaughterhouse.
A mother pig, or sow, spends her adult life confined to a tiny metal crate. She will never feel the warmth of a nest or the affectionate nuzzle of her mate——she will spend her life surrounded by thick, cold metal bars, living on wet, feces-caked concrete floors. When she is old enough to give birth, she will be artificially impregnated and then imprisoned again for the entire length of her pregnancy in a “gestation crate,” a cage only 2 feet wide——too small for her even to turn around or lie down in comfortably. After giving birth, a mother pig is moved to a “farrowing crate,” a contraption even worse and smaller than a gestation crate, with only a tiny additional concrete area on which the piglets can nurse.
Workers will sometimes tie the mother’s legs apart so she cannot get a break from the suckling piglets. She may develop open “bed sores” on her body from the lack of movement. One worker describes the process: “They beat the shit out of them to get them inside the crates because they don’t want to go. This is their only chance to walk around, get a little exercise, and they don’t want to go [back into a crate]“. This practice is so barbaric that gestation crates have been banned in Florida, the U.K., and Sweden and will be banned in California and the European Union in a few years.
Also, the stressed, crowded and immune-weakened pigs, living in dark, damp, feces-ridden conditions are perfect victims for evolving new strains of viruses like the swine flu which has broken out again in 2009 in a new form, as it does every decade or so. And when the pigs are transported, often long distances, they can easily be carriers of disease that could cause a pandemic at any time. The medical community charged with public health has been warning the U.S. government for years that factory farms are breeding grounds for new diseases, but the farm lobby is so powerful nothing has been done about it. Think about that: the United States government, which is responsible for the safety of its citizens, not only ignores the public health officials who are warning them of a dangerous situation that could cause a national crisis, but they won’t even warn the public about the dangers. All so people can buy cheaper pork.
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